|Chi. Cubs «||1||0||1||1||0||0||1||0||0||4||9||2|
HOUSTON -- The Chicago Cubs left Houston banged up but in better shape.
Nomar Garciaparra homered one inning before leaving the game with a stiff lower back, but the shortstop and the formerly fading Cubs were feeling better after beating the Astros 4-2 on Wednesday night.
Garciaparra said his injury was not serious, and the Cubs won their second straight behind 8 1/3 innings from Carlos Zambrano to win the series after arriving in Houston having lost six straight on the road.
Garciaparra said he felt his back tighten up after lunging to catch Orlando Palmeiro's hard line drive in the second inning. He said he felt OK when he hit his solo homer two innings later, but decided to leave in the fifth after having trouble moving around in the field.
"I'm not really concerned about it," Garciaparra said. "I know it's muscle and nothing other than that. I know it's matter of calming down. It's a good thing we have the day off tomorrow. I think with that day off and rest I'll be ready to go."
Zambrano (10-5) wasn't feeling entirely well, either, but the hard-throwing righty hardly showed it. Despite battling flu-like symptoms, Zambrano allowed two runs and three hits and struck out 10 for his third win in four starts. He homered leading off the third, his first of the season.
Zambrano is 6-1 in his last 10 outings.
"When a guy is throwing 97 mph and has a changeup about 84, you're not going to have a lot of good at-bats," Astros manager Phil Garner said.
The Cubs have won five of seven to get back in the NL wild-card chase after losing eight straight. Chicago trails the Astros by 5½ games.
"Every game is sort of crucial for us at this point," catcher Michael Barrett said. "It's do or die."
Roy Oswalt (14-10) gave up four runs and eight hits in seven innings. After a stretch of going 9-2, Oswalt is 0-2 with a 4.67 ERA in his last four starts.
"It just hasn't been going my way the last two or three starts," Oswalt said.
The Astros have dropped four of their last five, scoring a total of three runs in the losses. Houston got plenty of run support for Wandy Rogriguez in its 12-4 win Monday, but have gotten a total of three runs for its three aces -- Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens.
"There's no secret this team goes the way of our pitching," outfielder Lance Berkman said. "Our guys just have to hold them to two runs or less ,and it's not fair to ask that of them."
Aramis Ramirez had a sacrifice fly for Chicago in the first. Zambrano homered in third, his first of the year, and Garciaparra made it 3-0 with his solo shot.
Garciaparra has played in 26 games this season, batting .242 with two homers and seven RBI. He was making his 10th start since returning after tearing his left groin in April.
In the bottom of the fourth, Garciaparra had to stretch to take a feed from first baseman Derrek Lee on a potential double play grounder. Garciaparra got the force, but his relay was wide of first base and it rolled into the camera well. Garciaparra, who finished the inning, was charged with a two-base error as the Astros scored two runs on the play to cut the lead to 3-2.
The Cubs added another run in the seventh on Barrett's sacrifice fly.
The loss continued a disappointing homestand for Houston, which is 4-5 in its 13-game stay at Minute Maid Park. When the Astros came off the road on Aug. 7, they returned with the best home record in the majors.
Atlanta and Boston are now the top home teams in baseball with Houston's 40-20 mark ranking third.
|Chicago's Nomar Garciaparra, who would later leave with an injury, rounds the bases after a home run. (AP)|
|Players of the Game|
Majestic Chicago Cubs T-Shirt
$21.95 Shop Now!
|Matt Lawton, LF||4||1||1||0||0||0||0||.269|
|Todd Walker, 2B||4||0||2||0||0||0||0||.304|
|Derrek Lee, 1B||4||0||1||0||0||1||2||.346|
|Aramis Ramirez, 3B||3||0||0||1||0||1||2||.304|
|Nomar Garciaparra, SS||2||1||1||1||0||1||1||.242|
|Neifi Perez, SS||2||0||1||0||0||0||0||.269|
|Corey Patterson, CF||4||1||0||0||0||1||1||.233|
|Jeromy Burnitz, RF||4||0||1||0||0||1||0||.257|
|Ryan Dempster, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.077|
|Michael Barrett, C||2||0||1||1||0||0||0||.283|
|Carlos Zambrano, P||3||1||1||1||0||1||2||.259|
|Todd Hollandsworth, RF||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.253|
|HR - Nomar Garciaparra (2, Oswalt), Carlos Zambrano (1, Oswalt)|
|SF - Aramis Ramirez (2), Michael Barrett (4)|
|RBI - Aramis Ramirez (89), Nomar Garciaparra (7), Michael Barrett (51), Carlos Zambrano (5)|
|CS - Michael Barrett (2, 2nd base by Oswalt/Ausmus)|
|Team LOB - 3|
|E - Nomar Garciaparra (5, ), Neifi Perez (10, missed catch)|
|Carlos Zambrano (W,10-5)||8.1||3||2||1||3||10||0||3.07|
|Ryan Dempster (S,18)||0.2||0||0||0||1||0||0||3.98|
|Pitches-Strikes - Carlos Zambrano 116-72, Ryan Dempster 13-7|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Carlos Zambrano 7-8, Ryan Dempster 3-0|
|Batters Faced - Carlos Zambrano 31, Ryan Dempster 4|
|Willy Taveras, CF||4||0||0||0||0||2||1||.300|
|Craig Biggio, 2B||4||1||1||0||0||0||1||.273|
|Mike Gallo, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|Lance Berkman, LF||3||1||0||0||1||2||0||.289|
|Morgan Ensberg, 3B||3||0||1||0||1||2||0||.298|
|Mike Lamb, 1B||4||0||0||1||0||1||0||.211|
|Eric Bruntlett, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.203|
|Orlando Palmeiro, RF||4||0||0||0||0||0||2||.323|
|Chris Burke, PR||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.229|
|Adam Everett, SS||3||0||0||0||1||1||1||.241|
|Brad Ausmus, C||3||0||1||0||1||1||3||.244|
|Roy Oswalt, P||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||.154|
|Dan Wheeler, P||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||.000|
|a- Jose Vizcaino, PH-2B||1||0||0||0||0||1||1||.225|
|a-struck out for Wheeler in the 8th|
|2B - Craig Biggio (33, Zambrano)|
|SH - Roy Oswalt (6)|
|RBI - Mike Lamb (40)|
|Team LOB - 6|
|DP - Everett-Biggio-Lamb|
|Roy Oswalt (L,14-10)||7||8||4||4||0||6||2||2.67|
|WP - Roy Oswalt (4)|
|Pitches-Strikes - Roy Oswalt 106-77, Dan Wheeler 14-10, Mike Gallo 8-6|
|Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Roy Oswalt 9-4, Dan Wheeler 1-2, Mike Gallo 3-0|
|Batters Faced - Roy Oswalt 27, Dan Wheeler 4, Mike Gallo 3|
|Attendance - 29978|
|Game Time - 2:21|
|Temperature - 72|
|Umpires - Home - Randy Marsh, First Base - Jim Wolf, Second Base - Sam Holbrook, Third Base - Larry Vanover|